Three Strikes

Strike One: A packed house and a great finish in Houston

The Houston Astros College Classic drew a record 27,134 fans Saturday, the fourth-largest crowd ever to watch a college baseball game. Most came for the marquee matchup between Texas and Rice that night. The fans were treated to the best game of the young season.

Texas pinch-hitter Kyle Russell gave his team a 5-4 win with a two-out, two-run home run into the left-field Crawford boxes off Rice closer Bryce Cox. The blast came in the freshman’s second college at-bat, and coach Augie Garrido called it both miraculous and reminiscent of “The Natural”. Texas junior righthander Kyle McCulloch, who left his first start of the year after getting hit by a batted ball, held Rice to a run on five hits over seven innings, recording nine strikeouts. He left with a 3-1 lead, but Rice scored twice in the eighth inning and once in the ninth and led 4-3 entering the bottom of the ninth.

Rice, Texas, Texas Christian and Tulane each went 2-1 at the Classic, but Rice played like the most complete team–even if it has lost its last seven games against Texas following Saturday’s thriller. Senior righthander Eddie Degerman dominated Texas Tech on Friday, allowing two hits and recording seven strikeouts in 5.2 innings, and the offense unloaded on Texas Christian in the event’s finale Sunday night, scoring seven runs in the seventh inning to win 12-6 after having trailed 6-2. Sophomore Brian Friday, who lost starting shortstop duties a year ago as he batted .256, hit .385 in the tournament and is batting .435 on the year. He played third base in the first four and started at short instead of Josh Rodriguez on Sunday.

Strike Two: Arkansas holds Oklahoma State hitless

Three Arkansas pitchers combined on the 12th no-hitter in school history Saturday in a 3-0 win against Oklahoma State at the Jaguar Invitational in Mobile, Ala. Sophomore lefthander Nick Schmidt threw the first six innings, junior righthander Brian McLelland worked one inning and senior lefthander Devin Collis finished the first-ever no-no thrown against Oklahoma State, which had scored 17 runs on 22 hits in its previous game. “The pitchers did a tremendous job,” Arkansas coach Dave Van Horn said in an understatement.

Strike Three: Rain, snow and bitter cold disrupt play

Rain, snow and generally miserable weather from the Southeast through Texas forced double-digit cancellations and even more postponements, delays and doubleheaders over one of the first full weekends of play. Snow caused Tennessee and Eastern Michigan to halt their series after two games and made Air Force and York College move their series to Pueblo, Colo., following postponements and unplayable conditions at Air Force’s home field.

Florida State and Auburn canceled the final game of their series, with coaches Mike Martin and Tom Slater making a mutual agreement based on low temperatures. There was no snow or rain; it was simply too cold as reported it was 36 degrees in Auburn, Ala., at 2:30 ET Sunday with a wind chill of 29. Maybe that late-February uniform start date doesn’t sound as bad now.


• Maybe it’s the cold weather, maybe it’s parity, or maybe the rankings are really, really off, but life hasn’t been easy yet for Top 25 teams. The group went 28-15 a week ago before posting a 42-21 mark this week. And the records of some of the traditional powers sure look odd right now: Texas sits at 3-4, Cal State Fullerton is 3-3 and Arizona State is 5-4.

• Texas A&M tied a 60-year-old school record with 10 stolen bases Friday in coach Rob Childress’ debut, a 10-4 win. The Aggies were 10-for-12 against Northwestern State catchers Bobby Barbier (seven steals in five innings) and Knox McCorquodale (three steals in three innings). Michael Flower caught the last two games for the Demons, and held A&M to three steals in seven tries.

• Another group of Aggies, those from New Mexico State, enjoyed an equally fun Friday. New Mexico State trailed Washington 11-3 Friday night before scoring eight times (without making an out) in the bottom of the eighth inning to tie the score. NMSU won the game 12-11 with a run in the 11th inning.